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What is Telecare? Ultimate Guide to Telecare

Table of Contents

Telecare enables people to live safely and more independently by providing 24/7 monitoring services. This means individuals can stay in their own homes or live in supported housing, with the peace of mind that help is available if they need it.

In part one of our Ultimate Guide to Telecare, we answer some important questions including:

– What is telecare and who uses this?

– How does telecare work?

– Why is telecare important and what does digital telecare mean?

– How to choose telecare?

The guide is aimed at housing providers and other organisations who want to deliver telecare services that enrich the lives of older people, while ensuring you make the most of your investment in the technology.

You’ll also find much of the guide useful if you’re looking at telecare for yourself or a family member as this explains the essential information in plain English.

We’re pleased to collaborate with the Housing Learning and Information Network (LIN) to bring you this Ultimate Guide to Telecare.

“Technology is advancing at pace, with digital innovations rapidly transforming the way health and care is provided in the home and home-like environments. Supported housing providers must ensure the accommodation they manage or plan to build is digitally enabled so residents are not excluded from any services, equipment or products that require internet connectivity.

From telecare to smart speakers, and from Wi-Fi-assistive technology to smart metering, the housing sector urgently needs to switch on to becoming ‘digi-ready’ or risk preventing residents being able to fully access all the online choices that can support their independent living.

This Ultimate Guide to Telecare is an introduction to the fundamentals of telecare, with information on how housing providers can maximise their care and support offer so people can enjoy a greater quality of life.” 

Jeremy Porteus, Chief Executive, Housing LIN

What is telecare?

Telecare is the use of technology to support older or vulnerable individuals to live more independently.

It offers the reassurance of 24/7 monitoring using a range of equipment, which is either worn on the person or installed in the home. This equipment is designed to send an alert to an operator at a monitoring centre or a nominated designated person if there is a problem or an emergency, such as a fall.

Telecare has evolved over the last 40 years from pull cord systems in sheltered housing and simple, wearable alarms and pendants. With a greater range of equipment and better technology, modern telecare can be used for the proactive monitoring of health and wellbeing, as well as providing a vital lifeline if there are any issues.

You may come across different terms such as SOS alarms, community alarms, warden call and independent living systems. This can be confusing but these all describe forms of telecare.

Who uses telecare?

Telecare is for anybody who needs additional support to ensure their safety and wellbeing while living independently. This can include older adults, individuals living with a disability or those with long-term care needs.

For example, telecare is particularly beneficial for elderly people who may be:

– at an increased risk of falls

– living with dementia

– have limited mobility

– living with chronic health conditions

With 24/7 monitoring, as well as proactive services such as medication reminders, telecare assists with important aspects of everyday life and provides easy access to help if this is needed. This can give elderly people the confidence to continue living in their own home and avoid a premature move to a residential or care home.

You may be looking for telecare for yourself or a loved one or be part of an organisation that provides telecare services on a larger scale.

As a local council, you may arrange telecare to support elderly people in your area to stay in their homes for longer. As a housing provider with purpose-built group accommodation (such as retirement housing or housing with care / extra care housing developments), you will want your telecare services to cover the different requirements of the people living in your scheme or developments.

How does telecare work?

Whatever your specific needs, telecare involves three main elements that work together:

1. Telecare equipment

2. The base unit

3. Telecare monitoring services

Telecare equipment options

There are many types of telecare equipment on the market, which can be kept on your person or installed around the home. These enable you to call for help at the touch of a button or provide proactive safety monitoring, sending an alert if a problem is detected.

Telecare alarms are perhaps the most well-known telecare devices, including:

Telecare personal alarm (also known as a pendent alarm)
This is worn on the person as a bracelet or pendent, with a button that can be pressed to speak to somebody at the monitoring centre or sound an emergency alarm.

Fall detector
Often used by elderly people, this is a wearable device that automatically detects and triggers an alarm if the person has fallen.

Telecare sensors can be used alongside telecare alarms. These monitor aspects of daily living, highlighting potential issues based on a change in behaviour or routine.

Telecare bed sensor
This uses a pressure mat to detect occupancy, raising an alarm in the case of unexpected activity, such as a prolonged absence from the bed in the night.

Chair sensor
Similar to the bed sensor, a pressure mat placed on a chair can be used to flag unusual movements over certain periods of time, such as if a person has got up but not returned as expected.

Motion sensors
These can be placed around a property to detect movement, signalling unexpected periods of inactivity or unusual activity.

Door sensor
This triggers an alarm if the front door is opened or left open, which can be particularly useful for people living with dementia to flag if they leave their home unexpectedly.

There are also environmental sensors, which are designed to monitor conditions in the home and detect potentially hazardous situations. This includes:

– smoke detectors

– carbon monoxide detectors

– floor detectors

– heat sensors

These different telecare devices and sensors can be used individually or in conjunction with each other, depending on the level of support required.

See part three of our Ultimate Guide to Telecare to learn more about telecare equipment and how this can be used to deliver effective and flexible telecare services.

What does the base unit do?

The base unit (also known as the alarm unit) is kept within the home and should be plugged into a mains socket. When you push the button on a telecare personal alarm, such as a pendant, or if a sensor is activated, this sends a radio signal to the base unit which then connects you to an operator at the monitoring centre. The operator is able to speak to you through the base unit.

If the base unit is in a person’s own home, it is often referred to as a dispersed alarm unit.

This works slightly differently in purpose-built group accommodation, such as retirement housing or housing with care / extra care housing schemes, where telecare services are provided to many residents. In this case, each base unit is routed through a central communications room which then connects to the monitoring centre. This doesn’t affect how individuals within the development use the telecare service, however.

What are telecare monitoring services?

The base unit connects telecare alarm calls to the monitoring centre (which you may also see referred to as the alarm receiving centre or ARC).

The monitoring centre has a team of operators on hand 24/7, who are trained to take telecare calls and arrange for the appropriate support. This will depend on the type of call and whether the operator is able to speak to the person or not, but could include:

Contacting the emergency services

In some situations, the person will require emergency assistance, in which case the operator will make a 999 call and provide the necessary details.

Organising a visit from a nominated person

Sometimes, the person who has made the telecare alarm call will need to be checked by their nominated person, which could be a neighbour, family member or friend. If they are living in supported housing, a member of staff will be contacted to visit the person.

Providing reassurance

It may be that the person who has made the telecare alarm call simply needs reassurance, in which case the operator can speak to them directly to deal with any problems or concerns.

As well as answering telecare alarm calls, the monitoring centre may also make proactive outgoing calls, such as medication reminders or wellbeing checks.

The services provided by the monitoring centre may be referred to as telecare services, monitoring services or careline services. Find out more in part two of our Ultimate Guide to Telecare, which looks at these telecare services in more detail.

Why telecare is important

Telecare plays a vital role in the way we deliver social care to meet long-term and changing needs, while also improving the quality of people’s lives.

That’s because telecare offers:

– Peace of mind for individuals and their loved ones, who can be confident help is within easy reach when needed.

– The freedom to live as independently as possible, without the need for constant supervision or a premature move to a nursing or care home.

– A way to reduce hospitalisation by preventing or identifying problems before they become more serious – for example, by showing changes in usual behaviour at home or providing help quickly when needed, such as following a fall.

With the upcoming digital phone switchover, digital telecare will be the norm and this connectivity enhances and builds on these benefits of telecare.

A note from the Housing LIN:

“Telecare should be an integral part of a supported housing provider’s delivery plan or strategy. This should recognise how telecare can enhance the care and support offer for older and vulnerable people and enable a more efficient service.

The remote monitoring of residents’ wellbeing and safety allows for timely interventions in the case of emergencies or a critical health issue, day and night. This not only ensures access to 24hr support for residents but can also reduce the need for constant in-person supervision, optimising staffing resources.

In addition, by empowering people to manage their own health and wellbeing to some extent, telecare can help to foster a greater sense of autonomy and dignity.”

What does digital telecare mean?

Traditional telecare communicates with the monitoring centre by sending analogue signals over the telephone network. But digital telecare uses digital technology to deliver telecare services, both in the monitoring centres that receive the alarm calls and within the equipment and devices that are used to trigger the alarms.

Digital telecare offers many advantages as it:

– Helps older and vulnerable people access help quickly – digital technology is faster and more reliable, with an alarm call connection time of just 3 seconds, compared with what can be minutes with traditional telecare systems.

– Improves the telecare experience – with better speech quality and two-way communication, so it’s like a normal phone conversation.

– Gives individuals more control over their lives – with features such as “I’m OK” notifications and video calling, so people can decide how and when they want to access support.

– Enables organisations such as housing providers and local authorities to deliver more efficient, inclusive and accessible services and aid property maintenance and building management systems.

Digital telecare is also fully compatible with the digital telephone network, which is important as the phone lines across the UK continue to be upgraded as part of the digital phone switchover.

What’s the difference between telehealth and telecare?

Both telecare and telehealth make use of technology to support people’s health and wellbeing so they can live more independently.

Telehealth helps people manage long term health conditions at home, such as diabetes and COPD. This is done using telehealth devices, which monitor specific health indicators such as blood glucose levels, blood pressure or pulse rate.

Telecare, on the other hand, raises an alarm if there is a problem or an emergency. This is generally aimed at older or vulnerable people, with devices they can use to call for help if they need it or that automatically detect if there is a safety issue in the home.

Person-centred care

Telecare and telehealth are examples of how we can use technology as part of a person-centred approach to long-term care needs. Telecare services can be tailored to meet specific requirements and lifestyles, giving individuals control over their own wellbeing and the support they receive.

For truly person-centred care, services should be created in partnership with the people who use them. Housing providers and local authorities can work with their customers when they upgrade or develop their telecare services to ensure these genuinely meet their needs.

A note from the Housing LIN:

“Person-centred care is crucial in the context of telecare and telehealth in supported housing as it ensures individuals’ unique needs, preferences, and aspirations remain the central focus of the care and support being delivered. This not only enhances the effectiveness of these services but also promotes a more compassionate and respectful approach, enhancing residents’ sense of autonomy, choice and control.

The TAPPI project highlights the importance of person-centred care as one of ten foundational principles for building technology into housing in a way that improves life for our ageing population.

Co-production is a key principle, empowering and equipping people to make informed choices in the design of care and support services. This acknowledges their ‘lived experience’ means they are often best placed to advise on what will make a positive difference to their lives. Residents are able to actively participate in the provision of care and support services, leading to greater engagement and fostering a more inclusive supported housing environment.”

How to choose telecare

When it comes to selecting the right telecare products, it’s important to think carefully about what you need: consider your overall concerns and aims and the level of support you require.

You may want a straightforward personal alarm for emergencies or need help for specific situations, such as living with dementia. Alternatively, as an organisation you may want a more comprehensive digital telecare solution with multiple monitoring options and the flexibility to tailor your service.

If you’re looking for telecare for yourself or a loved one

– Find information from AgeUK about how telecare can be used at home.

– Learn about our careline service, which supports thousands of people to remain confident and independent in their homes.

Digital telecare for housing providers and local authorities

– Take a look at our guide ‘How to plan and procure the right digital solution’. We share tips on evaluating different telecare options and how to choose your telecare supplier, with a checklist of questions to ask.

– Find out more about our SmartTEC products which offer a range of digital telecare solutions.

– Read about the TAPPI project and the lessons being learned from 6 UK ‘testbeds’.

Our ultimate guide to telecare

This first part of our Ultimate Guide to Telecare introduced the main elements of telecare, explaining what telecare is, how this works, why telecare is important and what digital telecare means.

Our Ultimate Guide to Telecare is aimed at housing providers and local authorities and answers your questions about telecare and how you can make the most of the technology to support your customers. Parts two – three will be coming out very soon and will be covering:

– How telecare services help

– The essentials of telecare equipment

– What are the benefits of telecare?



About Appello

Appello is a market leader in digital telecare and Technology Enabled Care (TEC). We work with housing providers to deliver safer and happier communities, using technology to help empower and enrich people’s lives. We’ve been creating and delivering digital telecare for a long time now, so you can feel confident that we have all the essentials covered while also providing innovative and comprehensive solutions. Contact us to find out how we can help you.

About Housing LIN

The Housing LIN is a sophisticated network bringing together over 20,000 housing, health and social care professionals in England, Wales and Scotland to exemplify innovative housing and technology solutions for an ageing population. Recognised by government and industry as a leading ‘ideas lab’ on specialist/supported housing, our online and regional networked activities, and consultancy services:

– connect people, ideas and resources to inform and improve the range of housing that enables older and disabled people to live independently in a home of their choice,

– provide insight and intelligence on latest funding, research, policy and practice to support sector learning and improvement,

– showcase what’s best in specialist/supported housing and feature innovative projects and services that demonstrate how lives of people have been transformed, and

– support commissioners and providers to review their existing provision and develop, test out and deliver solutions so that they are best placed to respond to their customers’ changing needs and aspirations.

For information about the Housing LIN’s comprehensive list of online resources on technology enable care and housing, visit: https://www.housinglin.org.uk/TECH/